Legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, who put Indian athletics on the world map by winning the gold in the then 440 yards race of the 1958 British and Commonwealth Games, was cremated with full state honours on Saturday.
Milkha, 91, was bid a tearful adieu in the presence of his family members and several dignitaries, including sports minister Kiren Rijiju.
‘The Flying Sikh’, as he was fondly called, died on Friday night due to Covid-19 related complications.His son and ace golfer Jeev Milkha Singh lit the funeral pyre.
Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator V P Singh Badnore, Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Haryana’s sports minister Sandeep Singh were among the other dignitaries who attended the last rites. A police contingent reversed arms and sounded the last post in the sprinter’s honour. Milkha was also given a gun salute.
The Punjab government had declared a one-day state mourning and a holiday as a mark of respect to the legend. Earlier, a wreath was also laid on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the Army. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had earlier in the day said the Punjab government will accord state funeral to Milkha Singh. The funeral procession started from Milkha’s Sector 8 residence. His body was carried in a bedecked vehicle, with common people turning up along the short route to the Sector 25 cremation ground to pay their last respects to the legend.
Interacting with reporters after the cremation, Rijiju spoke about Milkha’s last wish was to see India win an Olympic gold in athletics. “Today, Milkha ji is not among us, but we will fulfil his wish. He has given a big message,” he said.
When asked if any award would be instituted in his name, Rijiju said these things will be discussed with family at an appropriate time and whatever needs to be done by the Sports Ministry in this regard will be done.
“We have told the family that right from the Prime Minister to Governor Sahab, who is present here, we are with them in their hour of grief. Entire nation is with them,” he said. He said he was also carrying the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the family.
Earlier Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced a Milkha Singh Chair at Sports University Patiala, in memory of the great athlete.
The CM, who had gone to the Flying Sikh’s Chandigarh residence to pay his last respects to the legendary sportsperson, said his government will ensure that Milkha Singh’s memory continues to inspire the younger generations.
Amarinder said the legacy of the great Indian sprinter would continue to live on in the hearts of the people.